Review of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. What happens when the children come home from their portal fantasy adventure? What happens when they are trapped in the normal world?
My review of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Every Heart a Doorway is a contemporary fantasy novella that looks at what happens when you return and no longer fits into your old world. The book has strong themes of Sadness, friendship, understanding, gender, expectations and acceptance.
The novella series is a wonderful exploration of how difference experiences make and break us into who we are.
My review from 2016 of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
“The girls were never present for the entrance interviews.”
If you are anything like me you have read quite a few portal fantasies. If you, like me, have read them older than their intended audience, you might also have wondered what it would be like to come home from the adventure. You might also have been saded by the ending that had the girl come back their her family from the adventure… You know her parents will not believe her tales, you know that for some of them they are more mature, than their age, you know that they will have a hard time relating to the trivial matters of their age group… Every Heart a Doorway sets out to answer what happens after the wayward children come home.
Every Heart a Doorway is one of those books that consumed me, invaded my thoughts and style my sleep. Only once I finished did it let go of me.
You can never go back home again…
It very much reminded me of “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” while being a totally different story. But the story plays with the same themes of longing to go back to the portal fantasy, of dealing with the fact that the world around you will never understand. This make it sound like it is all metafiction and it is, but I think both books are also talking about coming back from an experience changed and how to deal with surroundings that didn’t take part in the experience – how to navigate their expectations that no longer fit who you are.
I think for many people this happens when they leave home to go take their degrees or move away to work, go aboard with the military or travel. Or for children when they move to a different town, go to boarding school, are victims of whatever… You no longer fit in your old world, you have changed and your old world hasn’t, not really.
All of the characters seem like real people, they are not always nice but sometimes they are. They very much feel like a bunch of real teenagers. This goes both for the main characters and the minor characters. In our main group we have a transboy, an asexual girl, a boy who does not adhere to normal teenage boy gender roles and choose to perform his gender in both traditional and nontraditional ways.
Gender and sexuality is very much a part of what this book discusses though it is never the center of the story, it often play a part in the story. I am not asexual and as far as I know, I don’t know anyone who are. The portrayal of the asexual teenage girl feels very real (from what I have read and heard on the subject), it is not a gimmick, but a central part of who she is and how she relates to the world. It is a source for anxiety for her (like almost anyone’s identity, who isn’t a part of the majority) but it isn’t treated as a problem, and her friends accept her for what she is.
All of the characters in Every Heart a Doorway are at the school because their parents and peers can not accept them as they are or do not believe them, when they tell what them what they have experienced. Everyone at the school has that in common if nothing else.
The sadness that seems to permeate every one of McGuire’s shorter works is here again. Unlike her longer novels this isn’t a funny book, it is a dark and sad book, where the resolution isn’t neat or pretty. It is very much a book of longing… Longing to belong, longing to fit in, longing for acceptance…
Sadness, friendship, understanding, gender, expectations and acceptance are major themes
Edit 2023: I have since read the rest of the novella series and they are all four or five star reads to me.
The stats: Every Heart a Doorway
Published: 2016 by Tor.com
Read: April 06 to 07, 2016
Author: Female, white, disabled and neurodiverse, queer, USA
The protagonists: Mixed group, male and female, cis and trans, straight, gay and asexual.
PoV: Asaxual white teenage cis-girl.
This review was originally posted: April 7, 2016. Updated and edited June 26, 2023